The Master's Hand & Vicarious Victories

by Orrin Woodward on Sat 04 Dec 2010 09:40 AM EST  |  Permanent Link

I can remember growing up, watching the Dallas Cowboys religiously every Sunday afternoon.  I watched every game possible, as I was sure that my (yes, I owned them in my imagination) Cowboys played better when I cheered them on.  Year after year, I supported the team, collecting the football cards, studying all the statistics, and buying every football magazine to keep abreast of the latest roster developments.  What was I paid for this magnificent display of loyalty you ask?  Absolutely nothing, in fact, I paid out money, an item in short supply, for the joy of vicariously being part of the Tom Landry’s legendary Cowboy organization.  As I grew older, my fanaticism diminished slightly, but even as a newly married young man, with responsibilities of my own, working all week, getting my MBA at night, I still watched the games.  While the game was on, in an attempt to impress my friends and family, I would predict the plays by studying the Cowboy’s formations.  My fans would ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ in approval at another play predicted successfully.  When the Cowboys started winning Super Bowls, Troy Aikman received a huge salary increase, Emmitt Smith hit the pay dirt with his new contract, and so did Michael Irvin, but I, on the other hand, was still busted, offered no loyalty bonus as the Cowboys biggest fan (Ok, I had plenty of competition here).  There are times in a person’s life, just a few, where truth whispers to you, not quite audible, but  distinctly there.  Most choose to ignore it, changing the channel on the TV, turning up the radio, or grabbing another beer, which is what I tried to do, but I couldn’t shake it.  Eventually, the whisper turned into a roar, it blared in my mind, consuming my thoughts, making me nauseous, unable to enjoy the game, so I walked into the another room to think.  Many question arose in my mind. Why was I spending so much time watching other people win in life, while I plodded along in anonymity.  Why is my life seemingly incomplete, unless I catch the latest game?  Is this huge time commitment really taking me where I want to go in life? 

Thankfully, I had parents who had taught me the American Dream, the belief in our country and the ability for anyone willing, to accomplish anything that they set their heart and mind to do.  I had, only months before, been introduced to a community building business, and had started reading and listening to grow myself.   That day, I made a decision to stop watching other people’s success and start creating my own success.  Through God’s grace, a loving wife, hard work, and great friendships developed along the way, Laurie and I converted the hours spent watching sports into the hours necessary to build our business, eventually leaving our jobs, freeing up lots of time.  Over the years, I have seen many other people, faced with the same time challenges, make different decisions, choosing the sports teams success over their own success.  If that is what someone wants to do, then more power to them, as I believe in freedom that strongly.  But I knew, that many of my friends, really wanted to win, but didn’t seem capable of overcoming the inertia of their LazyBoy chair to get into action.  They wanted to win, would have loved the results of winning, but never seemed to do what it takes to be a champion.  This success paradox puzzled me for years.   But as a leader, I focused on serving those who were ready to change, while loving and encouraging the rest of the community who weren’t ready to make that level of commitment to success, hoping that eventually they would come around.

Several days ago, while contemplating why nearly everyone loves sports excellence, yet only a few love personal excellence, I had an epiphany, finally answering the success paradox.  The more I thought about it, the stronger I feel that my hypothesis, for why more people don’t pursue personal success, will stand the scrutiny of reason and time.  I believe human beings are designed to win, being hard wired to strive for excellence in life, but, due to man’s fallen nature, the wires are crossed, being misconnected at birth. People do not strive for success because they believe they are unworthy and incapable of winning, so they seek out victories vicariously through people, teams, or bands that are winning around them.  Here is how the Bible explains the consequences of man’s violations of God’s law and the subsequent fall from grace, Genesis 3:18/19 reads:

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return.  

God’s original hard wiring proceeded from dream development directly to dream accomplishment, with little struggle to bring forth results.  But after man’s fall, work was brought work into the equation, forcing man and woman to work hard (thorns and thistles), enduring pain to bring children and the fruits of all labor into the world.  Mankind still loved winning, but now had this alien principle, of painful labor to overcome, in order to experience victories.  One cannot go from dream to victory without experiencing the struggle step, earning a living by the sweat of your brow.   Thus my hypothesis, because of the faulty wiring due to the fall, people want success, but not the hard work and long hours associated with it. In an effort to obtain the results without the work, people are drawn to the perceived shortcut, living vicariously off of other people’s victories through being a fan, not a performer.  In other words, people experience a feeling of success through their favorite sports team, without having to endure the level of pain and discipline needed to really win.  This is the vicarious victory, the feeling of accomplishment when the team wins, sharing in the celebration, feeling part of the winning team, but conveniently skipping the pain of the process involved in becoming a winner.  But the real victory in life is who people become in the dream, struggle, victory process, so by shortcutting the process, they shortcut their own personal development.

One might be thinking, if the struggle is now part of the process after the fall, why not just rewire the brain to achieve success according to the new rules of life?  That is a great question, leading me to the next success thought.   We are all born to win, even after the painful fall, but desperately need reprogramming from the Master programmer.  Without His reprogramming, people believe that they are unworthy of greatness, believing life’s trials and tribulations beyond their ability to overcome, misunderstanding the effects of the fall, they internalize the pain, believing they are worthless, instead of allowing the pain of rebellion to lead them back to their Maker, a Maker who would reveal to them their true destiny.  The truth is that we are made in the image of God and have endless potential inside of us, accomplishing greatness when we serve our Maker and others.  The reminds me of the inspiring poem written my Myra Brooks Welch called The Touch of the Master’s Hand:

    It was battered and scarred,
    And the auctioneer thought it
    Hardly worth his while
    To waste his time on the old violin,
    But he held it up with a smile.
    "What am I bid, good people", he cried,
    "Who starts the bidding for me?"
    "One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
    "Two dollars, who makes it three?"
    "Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three",

    But, No,
    From the room far back a grey haired man
    Came forward and picked up the bow,
    Then wiping the dust from the old violin
    And tightening up the strings,
    He played a melody, pure and sweet,
    As sweet as the angel sings.

    The music ceased and the auctioneer
    With a voice that was quiet and low,
    Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
    As he held it aloft with its' bow.
    "One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
    "Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
    "Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
    Going and gone", said he.

    The audience cheered,
    But some of them cried,
    "We just don't understand."
    "What changed its' worth?"
    Swift came the reply.
    "The Touch of the Masters Hand."

    And many a man with life out of tune,
    All battered with bourbon and gin,
    Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
    Much like that old violin.
    A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
    A game and he travels on.
    He is going once, he is going twice,
    He is going and almost gone.
    But the Master comes,
    And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
    The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
    By the Touch of the Master's Hand.


My dear reader, you are the the beautiful violin, having a worth beyond any asking price, lacking only the touch of the Master’s hand to accomplish your life’s purpose.  Inside of each person is talents and skills beyond imagination, but unless the wires are reconnected to the new conditions of life, people will wander aimlessly, wondering why life is so hard, and their dreams seem so far away. Do not succumb to the negativity surrounding you, but search out the Master to be reprogrammed for true greatness.

But can’t you just reprogram yourself, without the need of the Master’s help?  Sadly, to a certain extent, yes.  But the problem is that self programmed people move through life with themselves as the center of existence.  A person can become moral, hardworking, and successful financially without the master, literally becoming prideful at his own work, but can never experience true joy, unless he is one of the Master’s instruments.  I have lived portions of my life in all three conditions.  For a time, I believed that I was junk, acting out this faulty belief system, hurting myself and others. For a time, I believed I was the programmer, developing a pride in my professional success, while attempting to ignore my personal misery.  But finally, mercifully, came the touch of the Master, and my life has never been the same since.  From my vantage point, the one essential attribute, lacking in our modern world is belief.  Belief, not in yourself through your own reprogramming, but a belief in the God of the universe and in his Son, the Master who touches the human hearts, changing them forever.  No longer will one need to pursue victories vicariously through their favorite sports teams, movie stars or rock bands, as they will have the Master Himself, pursuing victories for Him in their lives.  I still enjoy winning sports teams, but they are no longer define my life, as I have my own life to live, focusing on winning the race set before me, pressing towards my mark in life.  No longer will you feel unworthy of success, because you will know that you were designed by the Master with a specific purpose in mind.  No longer will you run to experience the elation of success vicariously, because you will live the Dream, Struggle, Victory process in your own life, developing into a leader so that you can serve the Master and others.  Moreover, when people truly believe in themselves, they will pursue their own personal and professional excellence with as much ardor and passion as they formerly pursued their vicarious excellence?  Don’t misunderstand me, I think being fans of successful people is important and I encourage my kids to have heroes, not to displace their own success, but merely as models for what is possible to those who dream, believe and achieve. 

Imagine if all of sports fans, who love watching successful coaches lead their teams, chose to live a life of excellence to the same standards of excellence that they hold their sports teams up to?  Can you imagine if all of the fans, fans who expect nothing less than excellence from their favorite teams, developed the same high expectations for their families and work teams?  Fans that pay good money to see excellence in sporting events, will, in their personal and professional lives, no longer tolerate mediocrity, holding to the same success standards in their own lives, that they expect from their favorite sports teams?  The paradox of success is solved only when we view life through a Biblical lens.  Several day ago, I asked why the paradox existed.  Why fans, who love excellence in competitive sports enough to pay for the right to experience it, will not apply the same standards of excellence in their own competitive professions, even though others are paying for the right to experience it.  The answer to the paradox is lack of belief in themselves and their purpose in life.  The are beautiful people, with amazing potential, with great passion (we can see that at every sporting event), but missing out on their purpose in life, due to the faulty wiring at birth. 

As a life coach, for the last 18 years, I have mentored many people through the reprogramming process.  Nothing brings greater joy to me on this earth, than having a front row seat, watching the Master hands restore a work of art to its original beauty.  I used to be a fan of a sports team, a team that I had never met, spent hours of my time, never to be restored, watched other people pursue their dreams as I buried my own.  Now I am called to mentor the greatest group of leaders in the world, spending hours of my time serving these masterpieces, pursuing my destiny by helping others pursue theirs.  I am a blessed man already, but my dreams are even bigger.  I dream of a world where all people, that are willing, can pursue excellence.  I dream of a world where all people are free to pursue their God given visions.  I dream of a world, where men and women have the courage to dream, the perseverance to struggle and the humbleness to be victorious, having corrected their hard wiring, by a touch of the Master’s hand, no longer afraid to become what they were called to be. God Bless, Orrin Woodward

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